COVID-19 antibody treatment soon to arrive in Pennsylvania

An Eli Lilly researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory

An Eli Lilly researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory in Indianapolis. (David Morrison/AP Photo)

The federal government plans to distribute monoclonal antibodies for the coronavirus to healthcare systems throughout Pennsylvania, state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said Friday.

Monoclonal antibodies are proteins built in a laboratory that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens, like the virus that causes COVID-19. The antibodies may provide short term protection from COVID-19 for appropriate patients, according to Levine.

“The [Health] department will determine which healthcare systems receive allocations based upon county case counts,” said Levine. “Then, the federal government will distribute the antibodies to the respective healthcare systems to further help communities struggling with the spread of COVID-19.”

Pa, officials are asking healthcare partners who receive the monoclonal antibodies to ensure that patients who meet the criteria will be able to receive this treatment in a range of different distribution settings.

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Health care systems will determine eligibility for the antibodies based upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA) guidelines.

The FDA issued an EUA earlier this month for the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy called Bamlanivimab, allowing it to be used in the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients.

Bamlanivimab is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It’s designed to block the virus’s attachment to and entry into human cells. Bamlanivimab is not authorized for COVID patients who are hospitalized or require oxygen therapy.

Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus are rising quickly, both nationwide and in Pennsylvania. As of Friday, there were nearly 3,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, including more than 650 in intensive care units.

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